I was looking into a Roosebeck Minstrel harp and I was wondering why is was so inexpensive, considering the positive reviews. Does anyone have any experience with Roosebeck?
Roosebeck Harps (also called Mid-East harps) are pakistani harps.
Google on ‘pakistani harps’ and a lot wil become clear to you.
As alternatives you may think of a 22-string backyard music fireside harp (with a cardboard soundboard), also available as a kit). Or one the 26-string harpsicle harps (harpsicle, sharpsicle, flatharpsicle or fullsicle). Or one of the Stoney End lap harps. Or of a Dusty Ravenna 26…
I agree with Wil.
I started on a mid-east harp, and mine happened to be pretty good. I’m even one of those people who wrote a positive review (with conditions, of course– such as: the levers are total garbage and the tension is low). However, I think I was one of the few lucky ones.
If you want a very inexpensive harp that sounds at least as good (actually better, IMO) as the Roosebeck, get a Backyard harp. I played a cardboard soundbox harp last year, and it was really enjoyable. Bonus: If you make it from the kit (I did, it was fairly easy) you can decorate it however you want. 🙂
If you have more funds than that, I also agree with Wil– look into Stoney End (I’ve played them, they’re great), Blevins Harps, Dusty Strings, etc. Good luck, and have fun! 🙂
These Paki harps have earned a reputation as been pretty poor, though I think the quality control has improved somewhat recently and I’ve seen a few that with some tweaks are quite nice. The levers are still pretty bad IMO and – an important consideration – most harp makers will not bother with any repair down the road when they almost undoubtedly will need it, as most harps will sooner or later. The Paki harps frankly sooner.
I think there are two questions to ask oneself before buying a harp: are you seriously interested enough to invest in a really good one or are you (like most of us at first, I’d bet) only interested enough to find out?
In the first case there are excellent harps ranging from $2500 to $5000+. In the second case the choices are more limited – the Backyard harps, Harpsicles, and a few others. One option would be a kit – Music Makers Voyageur model is a favorite of several teachers for student rentals.
In addition to what Biagio above has written. As far as I understand these ‘paki harps’ are put together in Pakistan by different people under different circumstances and subject to different standards of quality control…So some people may be lucky to have a functioning paki harp.
Paki harps don’t have much value on the second harp market (too many people know of hopeless levers and exploding soundboards, while other harps like those of Stoney End, Dusty, Triplett, Blevins, Camac and other harps with a good reputation retain a lot of their value on the second hand market.
Of course, harps with a wooden soundboard always sound better than the same harp with a cardboard soundbox: listen to the difference of these Smartwood harps: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGB_RllE0iA (you can build them from a kit if you are handy). These Smartwood budget harps do have a good name. And later on, you may want to put some levers on them.
Why are Harpsicles so inexpensive?
The line as a whole – Harpsicles to Fullsicles – are quite easy to build, of fairly light materials and low tension, so a lot of the upfront costs of making a good instrument are minimal compared to (for example) Ree’s higher end instruments such as the Morgan. Levers (for those that have them) used to be the low cost Robinsons as well. The newer ‘sicles have Rees’ own levers which are great – but since they are theirs they probably don’t cost much more if at all than the Robinsons.
Some people, me included, don’t like the loose lower strings but they have an alternative, higher tension set that I’d highly recommend. If you want a decent starter instrument at low cost they’re about the only ones I’d recommend, except the Music Makers Smartwood. Also a good low initial investment but again: very low tension in the bass.
All of the ‘sicles up to the Special Edition use the same string set – either standard, or upgraded for additional cost. The Special has the upgrade as standard.
If tension is too low for the particular pitch, tone suffers; especially in the bass where you want the most power usually. What you might want in terms of levers depends on what kind of music you usually play.
The only difference between the Sharpsicle and Flatsicle is the additional lever on Bs. This useful especially if you play with pipers (usually fixed there in F key) or have a lot of tunes in F that you don’t want to transpose. I’d get the Sharpsicle myself, but it’s just personal preference.
If you are a Celtic player you might prefer that additional lever on the Gs instead or in addition and I’m sure they would do that if asked.
If you decide for a second hand harp from the harpsicle line, make sure you get one of the newest model, I think they made these in or after 2012, but I am not sure), preferable with the new Rees levers instead of the old Robinson levers.
The newest model is a bit taller, especially in the bass section, which really should be an improvement for the very low string tension of the bass strings. If you want to use the ‘Special Edition’ strings (with the bass strings nylon wrapped around nylon for a bit of better tension), the harpsicle needs to have larger eyelets for the bass strings and only the newer harpsicles come with larger eyelets for the bass strings.
I’ve got a picture of the older one next to the newer one, so one can see the difference in height, but I guess it is copyrighted, so I can’t publish it here. I got it from Harpsicle harps some years ago, along with some other important information after I’d asked them some questions about the harpsicle and its levers.
By the way, you’d best try before you buy!
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